REFORM UK “don’t need” a formal leader in Scotland, according to the party’s deputy chairman in the country.

Since former Scottish Conservative MSP Michelle Ballantyne stepped down as leader of Reform UK in Scotland in February 2022, the party has gone without an official leader north of the Border.

Following the defection of former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson MP, to Reform UK on Monday – giving the party its first MP – The National approached Reform UK to find out whether they were still without a leader in Scotland more than two years on from Ballantyne’s exit.

“Since Michelle Ballantyne resigned we haven't had a formal leader in Scotland but at the moment we don't need one,” said David Kirkwood, the party’s deputy chairman in Scotland.

“The main leading roles are being performed by myself as deputy chairman and Marty Greene as Scottish national organiser and we are both authorised to speak on behalf of the party.

The National: David Kirkwood is the deputy chairman of Reform UK in Scotland David Kirkwood is the deputy chairman of Reform UK in Scotland (Image: Reform UK)

“The party all across the UK is trying to maintain as flat and efficient a structure as possible, with local PPCs (prospective parliamentary candidates) being assisted by area managers to build support in their own constituencies.

“At the moment, as we prepare for a Westminster General Election, this is perfectly adequate. We'll look at the need for a local leadership structure after that, as we prepare for Holyrood in 2026.

“As Reform UK Scotland is entirely autonomous, this decision will be ours and not dictated by the national party. We are not a traditional party because we do not have traditional politicians.”

Reform UK is a listed with Companies House, with Nigel Farage having control. However, its nominal leader is Richard Tice.

The party has vowed to stand candidates in every single Scottish seat at the next General Election.

However, the list of candidates online shows that Reform UK has not yet filled every seat.

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Speaking to The National, Kirkwood – who is set to stand in the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale constituency at the next General Election – said the remaining seats would be filled in the coming weeks.

“There are some gaps in our published list but these will be filled over the next few weeks as potential candidates go through our very thorough vetting process,” he said.

“I expect that we will have more applicants than vacancies”.

Following Anderson’s defection to Reform UK, party leader Tice said he expected more Conservative MPs to follow suit.

It comes as the party seeks to appeal to Conservative voters by placing itself firmly to the right of Rishi Sunak on issues such as immigration and net zero.

The National: Nigel Farage is honorary president of Reform UKNigel Farage is honorary president of Reform UK

Indeed, official party policy states that it would seek to leave the European Convention on Human Rights and “pick up migrants out of boats and take back to France”.

The party has also disparaged net zero as “nonsense”, claiming the climate has always changed and that “we are better to adapt to warming, rather than pretend we can stop it”.

While founder of the party Farage stepped back from frontline politics in 2021, he remains Reform UK's honorary president. 

However, despite the explicit appeal to Tory voters, Kirkwood said the party was also seeking ex-SNP voters like himself to join the ranks.

“We are not an ersatz Tory Party,” he said.

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“We are attracting support from all across the political spectrum and, although many of our members are ex-Tory, our second-largest cohort is probably ex-SNP, as I am myself.

“I voted SNP in every election since 1979 and voted Yes in 2014.

“However, I spoiled my paper for the only time ever in 2019 because I couldn't bring myself to vote for the SNP administration.”

When pressed on whether he still supported Scottish independence despite Reform UK policy firmly stating the party’s support for the Union, Kirkwood said: “I'm a manufacturing engineer. So, for me, the smaller the autonomous group, the more efficient it is and the easier it is to meet the needs of the people involved.

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“I thought that if Scotland governed its own matters we would be able to respond quicker to world markets, to use our goodwill in the world to improve things.

“Unfortunately, after 2014 the SNP’s management changed and a bunch of utter incompetents took over.

“So, I don’t think at the moment there’s any possibility of a Scottish independence vote becoming Yes. It’s as simple as that.”

He added that the party was guarding against “careerist politicians” and that he was confident they would gain representation at the next Holyrood elections.